Belfast store to be the final HMV standing as company goes digital
Belfast will lay claim to the only HMV store on the island of Ireland as its parent company moves it into the digital era.
Four other HMV stores in the Republic of Ireland are to close over the next few months, with offers in place for sales to other retailers.
And Paul McGowan, the Northern Ireland-born chief executive of HMV owner Hilco, said the store in the city's High Street - now the largest HMV store in the world - will remain open.
Hilco is set to launch an online video-streaming platform, offering 3,000 films in a move that will see it compete directly with Netflix. The films will be available to view on a purchase or rental basis, at prices similar to those offered by current online rental or purchase providers such as Apple.
Mr McGowan - an accountant and graduate of the University of Ulster - said the service would be launched in the fourth quarter of this year, or possibly January of next year. And over £5.5m will be invested in the new offering, which sees the company pivot away from physical CD and DVD sales towards digital offerings.
Mr McGowan said it would be available on virtually all smart devices, as well as smart TVs, laptops and desktops.
"It's looking pretty good already, we now have heads of terms with all of the major Hollywood studios, plus all of the international guys as well."
He said it would initially launch in the UK, Ireland and Canada. McGowan is also set to travel to China at the end of the month to talk about launching the product there as well.
The move represents HMV's effort to transform itself for survival in the digital era. Sales of physical CDs and films have been decimated with the arrival of online services like Netflix and Spotify. Blockbuster, the former video rental giant, is probably the most high-profile casualty of the shift to digital.
Hilco closed down Xtra-Vision in Ireland earlier this year after integrating a HMV presence into some Xtra-Vision stores.
HMV's retail history stretches back to 1921, when its first store was opened on Oxford Street in London by Edward Elgar, the celebrated composer of Pomp and Circumstance.
The launch of the CD and later the DVD fuelled strong growth in the 1980s and 1990s, but the move to digital saw the company collapse into administration in 2013.
That saw Hilco - which specialises in investing in distressed companies - take control. Other companies it has invested in include ceramics company Denby and flooring product manufacturer Kraus.